Canning Green Beans and a Garden Update

This morning, I got up early and started picking beans.  I got SO many, just like I was hoping to.  At 9, my mom and aunt showed up to help, with Jake and Michaela in tow.  While out in the garden, I took the opportunity to pick a few cucumbers, snow peas, zucchini.  Things are coming along nicely.

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The bucket is full of beans, and the other veggies are just resting on top.  I had no time today for anything else, but tomorrow I’m going to see if there are enough cukes for a couple jars of pickles.

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My pollination issue has been resolved:)  There are probably about 15-20 zucchinis forming!

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These are Carmen peppers.  They are a sweet pepper, and are the first to turn red at my house.  I usually grow them from seed, and was delighted to find a few plants of that variety that I could buy.  They’re not ready yet, but are coming along.

Some of the seeds I planted for the late summer garden are up.  The bush peas are up, and the snow peas are just starting to poke up.  Beets are up like crazy, but the pole peas are nonexistent.  The seeds may have been too old.  I will plant a few more things after these beans are done and pulled out, like yet another row of lettuce.  The little cabbage plants are starting to take off.   Right now the garden is full.

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Before he left for camp, Rob set up this camp stove for me to use in the outside covered porch and got me a full tank of propane.  This house came with a flat-top stove, which is not recommended for canning on.  So, I’m learning to can a different way–outside, and with propane instead of electricity.  There was a lot of juggling things around, scurrying in and out of the house setting up things, and generally figuring out the new way of doing things.

My snapping crew kept snapping steadily while I washed jars, filled them, added 1/2 teaspoon salt, filled with water, put on lids and rings and began processing.  Then I put my mother on a chair in front of the canner to keep it at a steady 11 pounds of pressure.  She had to continually adjust the propane level to keep the pressure consistent for 25 minutes for quarts and 20 minutes for pints.  We always watch it the entire time.   It’s the safest way.

Michaela and Patsy helped snap and then Michaela helped Grandma by timing the length of time needed with her phone.

Aunt Janet kept snapping.  All morning long.  Jake asked to go to the Dollar Store to get the prize he had earned by doing his daily activities.  All morning long.

By lunch time, we had them all snapped and into jars.   By 1 o’clock, we had 2 loads cooked and cooling.  After a quick lunch, we all dispersed to our respective errands and I finished canning them when I got back.  From the Dollar Store.  (We also did a library activity, and some other things, so I didn’t actually finish until about 8:30 pm)

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At the end of the day, I have 21 quarts and 17 pints, all cooling on a table outside.  I’ll let them cool all night and wash and put them away tomorrow.  I am very pleased with the amount we got.  I could not have done it without all my helpers.  I’m so thankful for their help.  It was a long, satisfying day.

 

Gluten-Free Cashew Chicken

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I found the recipe for cashew chicken that I promised to post.  I made it for dinner tonight and remembered why I loved it so much.  So, here’s to Jeannie–cashew chicken over rice

I started with a recipe from Taste of Home, and have changed it up over the years.  Here’s what I did today.  This recipe is very flexible.

Mix:  2 cups chicken or turkey broth

1/4 cup cornstarch

3 Tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce (we buy it by the gallon at Cash and Carry)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Stir those ingredients together, and set aside.  This is the sauce that gives the stir-fry a great flavor.  Stir it one more time right before pouring it over the veggie/meat mixture.

Cut up vegetables and chicken and put into bowls, piles on a cutting board, whatever you want.  It just works better to have it all cut up before you start.  You can vary the veggies according to what you can grow, or get on sale.  Today I used:

2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into very small pieces (Mine were diced into about 1/4-1/3 inch pieces)

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

Celery sliced thinnly (today it was the center of a stalk that needed used, other times I might  use 2-3 sticks)

4 large mushrooms

1 cup snow peas ( I would have liked 2 cups in there, but that’s what I had today)

1 bunch broccoli, cut into flowerets (it was 1 medium-sized bunch)  I also cut the stem into small pieces and added that in.

2 cloves garlic, minced

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I put a small bit of oil into a frying pan and cooked the chicken and onion for about 4-5 minutes, until the chicken was looking almost done.  Then, I added a little more liquid (some of the mix I made above, or plain broth.  If you use the mix, take from the top so you don’t get any cornstarch at this point.)  Then, I added the veggies in the order of hardest first, and softest (or anything that needed to stay crisper)last.  So, today I had carrots, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, snow peas and minced garlic.  If you have a different assortment, it will work.  Others I like in there are zucchini and summer squash, peas, and bean sprouts, to name a few.  The sauce is very important and it gives any veggies that great flavor.   I let it cook for a bit, stirring often.   After the veggies were crisp, but getting tender, I poured in the mixture.  I continued cooking and frequently stirring until the mixture thickened.  I did not let the veggies get very soft, just crisp-tender, because that is how my family likes them.

I made white rice to go with this, and it sopped up the marvelous sauce nicely.  I sprinkled some cashews on top of each portion after it was plated.  This would have been enough for 4 normal people, but 3 of us very hungry people ate it all.  It would be easy to stretch this, by adding more veggies.  It is tasty and healthy.

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Update–July 6, 2017

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I have so many green bean blooms coming on the bushes, it’s almost scary:)  I can see teeny, tiny beans forming, so I know I’ll be canning in a week or 2, and canning….and canning…..  I’m excited.  I like canning, and did not get to can last year.

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I got 2 ripe Sungold tomatoes, and 3 small Glacier Ultra Early tomatoes, but that’s it.  There are no more that look like they are even remotely ripe, but there are lots of green ones forming.  I will still buy tomatoes for a while, but the day is coming when I’ll be eating and canning those as well.

I had zucchini in a stir-fry for dinner tonight.  I’ve picked a small one and a very misshapen/half rotten one, but was able to salvage the rest.  There are lots more little ones coming along there, too.

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I’m getting a few raspberries and blueberries every few days. I have a few cups of raspberries frozen already. The Marion (black) Berries are starting to ripen.  There won’t be very many this year because we moved the entire patch last fall, but we will get a few.  I can pick wild blackberries this year.  Today, when we mowed the lawn, I took  the grass clippings and mulched the Marion Berries with them.  I’ve been able to keep them weeded out, and want them to have a good chance to get a foothold this year—-weed-free with plenty of moisture.

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I left 1`bolted cabbage.  Then, I chopped off the bolting part to experiment with it.  It started forming some tiny little heads.   I’ll see if anything comes of them.  Thankfully, my sister told me she will have cabbage to share.  I did plant 6 little plants for a crop in the fall.  Hopefully.

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We have harvested broccoli from each of the 5 plants that survived.  We’ve had it one time.  Lovana has eaten the rest.  The heads haven’t been super big.  Although it’s a lot of broccoli, it’s nice to see her eating veggies!  I still have side shoots coming along.  I’m not sure if I will try a fall crop of broccoli.  I will see how my time and energy holds out.

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I’ve been able to weed quite a bit in the flowerbeds this week.  There are still lots of weeds to pull, but it’s nice to see some progress.

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The nasturtiums have begun to bloom and I’ve cut many, many old, spent blooms off of the dahlias and roses.

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Rob put some systemic rose food and black spot deterrent on the roses, and I can see a little bit of difference in them.  They still have a long ways to go, though.  I did mulch a couple of them with grass today, and have put ashes on them as well.

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It’s been pretty hot, so we have watered a lot.  We are very thankful for the fact that there is a well here on our lot and the watering system is connected to it.  We have one of the greenest lawns on the block for that reason.  There is no way we would water so much, except for vegetables and a few flowers, if we had to pay for all that water.  It’s a real blessing.

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Do With Bolting Boc Choi? Eat Lots of Boc Choi–FAST!

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Boc Choi loves short days.  Once the days begin to lengthen, it bolts.  So, the season ends up being pretty short by the time I can get seeds planted in my wet, wet area, get the plants to grow to a size we can eat, and then eat like crazy before it starts to bolt.  I don’t tend to plant very long rows, for those reasons.  We do enjoy it, though, and it’s nice to have a crop that likes to grow in cooler, shorter, rain-filled days so I grow some every early spring and occasionally do a fall crop.

The first way we eat it is in stir fries.  I use whatever vegetables I have on hand and usually splash in some gluten-free soy sauce.   I start with the firmest veggies, such as onions and carrots, then add things like celery, boc choi stems, mushrooms, bean sprouts, etc., if I have them.  The last thing I do is add the sliced leaves from the boc choi and then remove from heat when they are just wilted.   If the leaves are too bug-eaten, I just use the stems and whatever I can salvage.

Another thing I like to do with boc choi is to put it in chicken or turkey soup.

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Again, I chopped the stems up like celery and added them in when I made my soup.  I added the sliced leaves in at the last minute and just wilted them down.  There is not a strong flavor of  boc choi in there, but it adds a pleasant, mild flavor to the soup.

Another thing I made this week using boc choi was spaghetti sauce.  By today, I was completely out of celery, so I just chopped up some boc choi stems and sautéed them with a diced onion and some ground pork I needed to use.  I added Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Then I added 1 jar of purchased spaghetti sauce and 1 pint of home-canned tomato sauce.  I just let that simmer in the Crock Pot all day and we had it for supper.  Again, there was no strong boc choi flavor, but the sauce was very flavorful and delicious.  I feel that any time I’ve used it in something, it has taken on the flavor of the dish, and at the same time added flavor without being obnoxious or making anyone ask why it was there.  Mostly, they don’t even notice it at all, but thought the sauce tonight was really yummy.

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It made a really good birthday dinner for Patsy, who turned 13 today.  I made salad from garden lettuce and a double chocolate loaf cake.  I hadn’t made that cake for many years, and never gluten free.  I only made one modification in the recipe I had used years ago, and Bob’s Red Mill One-To-One flour.  It turned out great.

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Garden Update-June 6, 2017

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I decided to focus on the flower garden today.  I have the first dahlia blooming.  These are bulbs that the previous owners planted, and there are 2 bushes that are looking vigorous and loaded with blooms.  I wasn’t sure they would make it through the extra-cold winter we had, but here they are!

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My sister gave me some starts from her dahlias.  They are coming up well in several places.  I know some are red–and some are “surprise!”  I’m eagerly waiting to see which is which.

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The wax begonias and impatients are starting to grow and bloom.

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The later peonies are blooming.  The red ones are done.  I planted marigolds and petunias along the edge of the flowerbed.  I can see some Calla Lillies coming up as well, here and there.  In the back (on the far left) the little zinnia seeds have come up, and I should have a double row of bright zinnias once summer comes.

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I got this “firecracker” geranium at a local nursery.  It’s very striking and showy and is blooming more and more already.

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I also got these geraniums with the varigated leaves.  This area needs HELP, obviously.  It wasn’t getting enough water until Rob adjusted it, so the only thing that is growing well is the weeds!!  I don’t think the dirt is very good in this area, as well.

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The basil is growing well. I even robbed 3 leaves off of it for a sandwich I made.  Yum!  I have a second batch growing in the garden, too.

The food garden is growing well, there just haven’t been many changes.  The delicata squash came up–5 of them.  Birds or squirrels took out 3 of them so far, and the other 2 are only 1/2 there.  So, I’ll go buy a plant.  Things are sprouting, growing, blooming, and setting fruit–Lots going on!  I have been eating lots of lettuce.  It is just beautiful and tasty right now.

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The Sungold cherry tomatoes are setting little tomatoes.  I’m looking forward to those.  A few years ago, a teen boy we know got us hooked on those.  He would give Rob a little basketful frequently from his raised bed garden and Rob would eat a few then and there, and bring the rest home.  We knew we had to grow them.  They are so tasty.  Yum!

The people who lived here obviously loved flowers and gardening.  All spring, there has been a steady succession of perennials blooming–both bulbs and plants.  They especially loved iris I think, because there have been 4-5 different kinds, at least.  The latest one is the yellow ones that just bloomed.  They are really tall and matched Ja’Ana’s dance costume perfectly.   There are several rose bushes, but they need some fertilizer or something.  There is a lot of black spot on them, as well.  I’ve been trimming them up, and getting some blooms.  I’m really happy to have so many flowers blooming–it is very cheerful!  The berry bushes are doing well, also, and I will have strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

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Garden Update–May 31, 2017–You Win Some, and You Lose Some

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My cabbage decided to bolt before giving me any heads of cabbage!  I am very surprised, but it’s no wonder with the huge swings in temperature that we have had.  First, it’s been rainy and very cool.  We had lots of snow this winter, and a very cool, rainy spring.  Then, it hit the 90’s.  I guess that did the cabbage in and tricked it into thinking it was time to make seeds.  I hope the broccoli is not next……

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The green beans came up great!  So did the purslane.  Thankfully, I’ve been able to easily hoe it out since the soil is so crumbly and nice.

But…..

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Thousands, if not millions, of pigweeds came up to replace them.  So, today, I ran the hoe through it again.  Rob will till soon, but until then, I want to get the worst of it out of there before the weeds get big.

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None of that matters.  I have a tiny little green tomato.  Really!  I was amazed and shocked when I came back from camping and there it was!

I have work to do, but there’s nothing new about that in a garden.  There is lettuce to pick, and snow peas forming.  The radishes are bolting, as is the boc choi.  I have a lot of weeds to hoe out and pull.  It’s shaping up to be a great garden!

Garden Update–May 2017

 

 

IMG_4504  Each time the weather has cleared up, I’ve planted a few things.  This week was gorgeous, and I was able to finish up almost everything that needs to be planted now.  I like to plant in succession, and have veggies all summer long and as far into the fall as possible.

I was delighted to see these green beans pop up.  I had been afraid that the birds had eaten them because there were quite a few sprouted seeds laying on the top of the ground.  Thankfully, I planted thickly, and there are plenty that made it.

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These snow peas are about to bloom.  They were one of the first things I planted.  These are the ones that are supposed to produce in 30 days.  Well, they came up right before Easter.  That was about 5 weeks ago, so they are not going to produce in 30 days.  But, if you look closely, there is a bloom at the bottom of the picture, so it won’t be long.  It was really rainy and cold this spring.   I don’t know if that slowed them down, or what, but they are blooming before my standard favorite, Oregon Sugar Pod II, which I planted as well, on the same day, so I could compare the two.  I left the blooming green onions that I planted last fall so they could lean on them.  If the onions go to seed, that’s fine, too.

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This lettuce is starting to come along.  I picked enough to add to a salad Sunday.  I’m not sure if you can see the carpet of weed seeds on the right hand side of the lettuce.  In some places, the ground is red because the weeds are so thick.  I’ve been hoeing them out while they are tiny, and have been making good progress.  Rob will also do some tilling before long.

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I picked a little boc choi, and a few radishes.  I’ve also been using green onions, and was able to get a few good spinach leaves from the bolting spinich.  They were still good in the salad.  You can see that I have another bunch of tiny lettuce seedlings coming up in the background.  I love having lettuce all summer long, so I plant every 2-3 weeks.  I also plant thickly, and then cut small plants out of row, giving more room for the others to grow.

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The Marion berries are blooming.  So are the strawberries and raspberries.

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The cabbage and broccoli are doing well.  They are beautiful in the morning sun.

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The chives are blooming beautifully behind the rhubarb.  I planted thyme, parsley, rosemary, orange mint and dill in front of the rhubarb.  I will probably move some chives forward eventually. I’m not sure why they planted them behind the huge rhubarb.    Maybe it wasn’t huge then:)

There is a small area left in the garden that has not been planted.  I plan to put in a second planting of green beans later.  I want them to come ripe in the middle of August, so should plant them around the middle of June.  I also have some squash seeds to plant, and I plan to plant them in a flowerbed by a dead tree stump.  I will let the vines cover it over, hide its ugliness, and get squash to boot.  I need to get those seeds planted ASAP!  Maybe tomorrow.  We will see.  This is the week of appointments.   I’ve got 2 dental appointments for 2 kids tomorrow, and that will take all afternoon.  We will do school all morning.  In addition, on various days, we have 3 doctors appointments for various ones, plus Ja’Ana has extra tap dance practice and her weekly house cleaning.  Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to plant a handful of seeds.  Thankfully.  Because timing matters when it comes to gardening.